On The Road With Donato Paternostro
"It's all about trust. That's where it starts and ends. But not just on the deck — we spend most of tour off the stage living together in a rolling tube. If the chemistry is weird off stage you better believe it'll carry over and vice versa.”
What do creativity, laughter, positive energy and The Sauce have to do with in-ear monitors? Absolutely everything. Listen to Donato as he breaks it down and realize that heart is just as important as technical know-how. 


Hi Donato, it was great seeing you at NAMM and catching up. So a few things really stuck with me from our conversation and I wanted to circle back to them for this interview. We were talking about how you can really cater to your artists’ needs since you’re a drummer yourself — how you can essentially bridge the creative and the technical aspects of sound. I’d love to hear more about that.

First of all Mike, thanks for providing an oasis amid the tornado that is NAMM. It was super to see you and Bryce and spend some time together at the UE booth. As far as bridging that gap goes, everybody does it differently. My main goal is for the artist to be comfortable and confident at the same time. As a musician myself, I know what it feels like to be on the deck and have to make a change and not be able to signal the engineer. Drummers especially find it hard since all limbs are firing. Listening to what my bands’ needs are and also reading body language and lips is a must. Especially when IEM’s are involved. Musicians need an engineer who can make quick and safe moves since with IEM’s you can’t move out of the spread like you can with wedges. When my band knows that I “know” exactly how it feels, it puts us in the same boat rowing for the same shore y’know. Mind reading 101. 

And have you noticed that this fosters more trust? That you can get your artists to experiment more with their sounds?

Oh indeed it does! It’s all about trust. That’s where it starts and ends. But not just on the deck — we spend most of tour off the stage living together in a rolling tube. If the chemistry is weird off stage you better believe it’ll carry over and vice versa. 90% of the time when the band and I are trying something new on stage with a mix or instrument it’s because of a conversation we had on a day off that has gotten us fired up.

That makes perfect sense. So does that mean that you’re able to suggest trying different microphones and set ups or just how far can you take it?

I’ll take it as far as they’ll let me. No limits! Yeah, I feel blessed because the engineers, techs, and bands I work with are amazing and we work together. If I wanna tweak a snare tuning or mess with a mic they let me go — with the caveat that I gotta prove it to them that it’s better. That goes for everyone. We’re all always tweaking something and checking each others balances.

Got it. So let’s take a few steps back. How did you start mixing sound?

I was always the de facto “archivist” for the bands I played in. iIalways had the 4 track, was the one who wanted to “get it down” so we didn’t forget the part, that sorta thing. When we played in clubs I always felt connected to the sound guys and was always the guy who would talk to them about what we were going for. It also helped that I always tipped! (Before you play. Hint. Hint!) Basically it was as simple as I wanted to know and I spent the time digging in.

And did you have any idea that you’d end up a top-touring sound engineer? I mean, how did that really happen? What were your big breaks?

It was the early 2000’s and I was playing in too many bands at the time and doing sessions to pay the rent. I also started working at Bowery Ballroom. This lead to employment at Webster Hall and being involved in the buildout of Music Hall of WillyB. I basically was on stage every night either playing drums or mixing. I was getting a lot of offers to tour but was really focusing on my playing until my good friend Matty, who was working with TVOTR at the time, made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. That’s how it began. But wait a sec… The top? cCmon. There’s only one way to go from here! I hold fast to the mantra that you’re only as good as your last show! repeat after me: You are only as good as your last show….Now hose down.

Well said indeed. So I’ve got to ask. Brooklyn has always been doing its own thing musically and now the world’s taken notice and the bands you’ve always been working with are at the epicenter of the scene. That’s got to be a trip.

Yeah this is my home, and I’ve seen it grow in many ways. Some good, some bad. I love it. I like that we all fly home together and we all see each other outside of tour. La Familia.

So just how much of the city do you think is captured in your sound? In your personal mixing style?

Tough to say because I’m never home! But I’m gonna say quite a lot. The people I’ve learned from all live and work here nightly. Whatever you throw at them they could adapt. They’re rocks. I like that trenches vibe. I learned on analog consoles, head up, kissing red and pushing air. But it’s only a starting point; everybody evolves. Nowadays I have many influences and many cities inspire me but it’s the people that make the city not the other way around.

Yep. So what do you try to capture in a performance? What’s the magic in one of your shows?

The magic to me is the chemistry of the band. It’s in their fingers and hands. Their flow. I’m there to add the ingredients that help them. It’s like a Sauce. That’s what I call it…”sono italiano ayyy”

On a more technical level, I look that all input levels are happy, compressors hitting nicely, outputs being maximized, and RF is locked down. I add some zest with select plugs — I like parallel compression to beef up the drums and I use some other tricks — but it’s all about Good in, Good out. The Sauce.

So you have the advantage of doing a lot of studio work and of actually playing with many of your artists. That has to deepen your connection to the music. Any tips that you can share with engineers who are just coming up as to how they can better connect with their work and sound?

I would maybe suggest pick up an instrument and approach audio from another angle. Feel the vibration and the resonance between the different instruments. Ear training helped me so much when I was younger with frequencies and their corresponding note. Don’t worry how good you are, but how well you understand and how to develop your ear. Staying in shape physically also helps me tremendously; when I eat right, work out, and run, it helps my attitude and positive energy. People pick up on things like that and it strengthens the language and relationship you have when working with any artist. Another thing I can’t recommend more: get out from behind the console! Don’t be afraid to be on stage and feel the deck as your band sound checks. Put yourself in their shoes as much as possible.


Points well taken. Which reminds me, you brought up a great point that during an actual show things look pretty calm in your world — that if you’re moving around and in a big hurry then there’s a big problem. For anyone not familiar with all the prep work, can you elaborate on what goes into setting everything up so that it looks easy at showtime?

Sure. Here’s a typical condensed day:
Load in: consists of emptying as many trucks as possible with as much loud yelling as possible.
Build: I set up my console, IEM rack, amps and try to fix what i broke yesterday. i also scan RF and clean ear mold gremlins.
Stage: supervise micing and wiring the stage while making inappropriate jokes about someone’s mom.
Soundcheck: band works on songs they know but keep bungling up. Crew works on bungling stuff up we do know. we all help each other avoid mental catastrophe and lock it down. Coffee pitches in here too.
Break: hockey hockey hockey!!! gotta get my game in. Go Habs Go!
Show: Blast off…be sharp, knock the pins down!
Load out: the worst

That’s basically it. If you’ve built a great crew around a great band then it’s all in the sauce.

And with that, we’ll be seeing you on the road. Thank you Donato.


Donato Paternostro Lives in Brooklyn, NY. He is an east coast native who grew up on the stage first as a live/studio drummer and then as an engineer. He has toured internationally with TV on the Radio, Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors, The Head and the Heart, and many others. He also maintains house gigs at many New York venues and production companies.

UE University is committed to showcasing monthly interviews with prominent audio technicians and hearing health care professionals. Read these ongoing articles and learn tips and tricks from the pros. If there is an engineer that you want to read about, let us know. Drop us a line: mdias@ultimateears.com

On The Road With Donato Paternostro

"It's all about trust. That's where it starts and ends. But not just on the deck — we spend most of tour off the stage living together in a rolling tube. If the chemistry is weird off stage you better believe it'll carry over and vice versa.

What do creativity, laughter, positive energy and The Sauce have to do with in-ear monitors? Absolutely everything. Listen to Donato as he breaks it down and realize that heart is just as important as technical know-how. 


Hi Donato, it was great seeing you at NAMM and catching up. So a few things really stuck with me from our conversation and I wanted to circle back to them for this interview. We were talking about how you can really cater to your artists’ needs since you’re a drummer yourself — how you can essentially bridge the creative and the technical aspects of sound. I’d love to hear more about that.

First of all Mike, thanks for providing an oasis amid the tornado that is NAMM. It was super to see you and Bryce and spend some time together at the UE booth. As far as bridging that gap goes, everybody does it differently. My main goal is for the artist to be comfortable and confident at the same time. As a musician myself, I know what it feels like to be on the deck and have to make a change and not be able to signal the engineer. Drummers especially find it hard since all limbs are firing. Listening to what my bands’ needs are and also reading body language and lips is a must. Especially when IEM’s are involved. Musicians need an engineer who can make quick and safe moves since with IEM’s you can’t move out of the spread like you can with wedges. When my band knows that I “know” exactly how it feels, it puts us in the same boat rowing for the same shore y’know. Mind reading 101. 

And have you noticed that this fosters more trust? That you can get your artists to experiment more with their sounds?

Oh indeed it does! It’s all about trust. That’s where it starts and ends. But not just on the deck — we spend most of tour off the stage living together in a rolling tube. If the chemistry is weird off stage you better believe it’ll carry over and vice versa. 90% of the time when the band and I are trying something new on stage with a mix or instrument it’s because of a conversation we had on a day off that has gotten us fired up.

That makes perfect sense. So does that mean that you’re able to suggest trying different microphones and set ups or just how far can you take it?

I’ll take it as far as they’ll let me. No limits! Yeah, I feel blessed because the engineers, techs, and bands I work with are amazing and we work together. If I wanna tweak a snare tuning or mess with a mic they let me go — with the caveat that I gotta prove it to them that it’s better. That goes for everyone. We’re all always tweaking something and checking each others balances.

Got it. So let’s take a few steps back. How did you start mixing sound?

I was always the de facto “archivist” for the bands I played in. iIalways had the 4 track, was the one who wanted to “get it down” so we didn’t forget the part, that sorta thing. When we played in clubs I always felt connected to the sound guys and was always the guy who would talk to them about what we were going for. It also helped that I always tipped! (Before you play. Hint. Hint!) Basically it was as simple as I wanted to know and I spent the time digging in.

And did you have any idea that you’d end up a top-touring sound engineer? I mean, how did that really happen? What were your big breaks?

It was the early 2000’s and I was playing in too many bands at the time and doing sessions to pay the rent. I also started working at Bowery Ballroom. This lead to employment at Webster Hall and being involved in the buildout of Music Hall of WillyB. I basically was on stage every night either playing drums or mixing. I was getting a lot of offers to tour but was really focusing on my playing until my good friend Matty, who was working with TVOTR at the time, made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. That’s how it began. But wait a sec… The top? cCmon. There’s only one way to go from here! I hold fast to the mantra that you’re only as good as your last show! repeat after me: You are only as good as your last show….Now hose down.

Well said indeed. So I’ve got to ask. Brooklyn has always been doing its own thing musically and now the world’s taken notice and the bands you’ve always been working with are at the epicenter of the scene. That’s got to be a trip.

Yeah this is my home, and I’ve seen it grow in many ways. Some good, some bad. I love it. I like that we all fly home together and we all see each other outside of tour. La Familia.

So just how much of the city do you think is captured in your sound? In your personal mixing style?

Tough to say because I’m never home! But I’m gonna say quite a lot. The people I’ve learned from all live and work here nightly. Whatever you throw at them they could adapt. They’re rocks. I like that trenches vibe. I learned on analog consoles, head up, kissing red and pushing air. But it’s only a starting point; everybody evolves. Nowadays I have many influences and many cities inspire me but it’s the people that make the city not the other way around.

Yep. So what do you try to capture in a performance? What’s the magic in one of your shows?

The magic to me is the chemistry of the band. It’s in their fingers and hands. Their flow. I’m there to add the ingredients that help them. It’s like a Sauce. That’s what I call it…”sono italiano ayyy”

On a more technical level, I look that all input levels are happy, compressors hitting nicely, outputs being maximized, and RF is locked down. I add some zest with select plugs — I like parallel compression to beef up the drums and I use some other tricks — but it’s all about Good in, Good out. The Sauce.

So you have the advantage of doing a lot of studio work and of actually playing with many of your artists. That has to deepen your connection to the music. Any tips that you can share with engineers who are just coming up as to how they can better connect with their work and sound?

I would maybe suggest pick up an instrument and approach audio from another angle. Feel the vibration and the resonance between the different instruments. Ear training helped me so much when I was younger with frequencies and their corresponding note. Don’t worry how good you are, but how well you understand and how to develop your ear. Staying in shape physically also helps me tremendously; when I eat right, work out, and run, it helps my attitude and positive energy. People pick up on things like that and it strengthens the language and relationship you have when working with any artist. Another thing I can’t recommend more: get out from behind the console! Don’t be afraid to be on stage and feel the deck as your band sound checks. Put yourself in their shoes as much as possible.

Points well taken. Which reminds me, you brought up a great point that during an actual show things look pretty calm in your world — that if you’re moving around and in a big hurry then there’s a big problem. For anyone not familiar with all the prep work, can you elaborate on what goes into setting everything up so that it looks easy at showtime?

Sure. Here’s a typical condensed day:

Load in: consists of emptying as many trucks as possible with as much loud yelling as possible.

Build: I set up my console, IEM rack, amps and try to fix what i broke yesterday. i also scan RF and clean ear mold gremlins.

Stage: supervise micing and wiring the stage while making inappropriate jokes about someone’s mom.

Soundcheck: band works on songs they know but keep bungling up. Crew works on bungling stuff up we do know. we all help each other avoid mental catastrophe and lock it down. Coffee pitches in here too.

Break: hockey hockey hockey!!! gotta get my game in. Go Habs Go!

Show: Blast off…be sharp, knock the pins down!

Load out: the worst

That’s basically it. If you’ve built a great crew around a great band then it’s all in the sauce.

And with that, we’ll be seeing you on the road. Thank you Donato.

Donato Paternostro Lives in Brooklyn, NY. He is an east coast native who grew up on the stage first as a live/studio drummer and then as an engineer. He has toured internationally with TV on the Radio, Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors, The Head and the Heart, and many others. He also maintains house gigs at many New York venues and production companies.

UE University is committed to showcasing monthly interviews with prominent audio technicians and hearing health care professionals. Read these ongoing articles and learn tips and tricks from the pros. If there is an engineer that you want to read about, let us know. Drop us a line: mdias@ultimateears.com

Your iPhone versus your Microphone: Understanding the upcoming 600 MHz spectrum auction

There’s a lot of confusion over the 600 MHz spectrum auction so I wanted to dedicate a post on this subject. Here are the key points to keep in mind.

  • Yes. It’s happening again. Right after we all bought new gear to accommodate 2009’s 700 MHz spectrum re-allocation. And unlike that move where all the the music industry gear shifted into the 600 band, there are fewer choices of where to go now. Lower portions of the UHF spectrum are already crowded. 
  • When it does happen, the repacking of the TV band is incredibly complex and it will take a few years for everything to go into effect. No one knows just how long it will take — some experts have even predicted up to 10 years. You won’t need to go out and buy new gear immediately.
  • Sennheiser filled a petition with the FCC on 11/4/2013 to seek renumeration for current wireless owners as a result of equipment being rendered obsolete due to spectrum repacking. There are currently no plans for auction winners to compensate current owners but this initiative is being backed by industry leading companies including Shure, Audio Technica, Lectro-sonics, and CP Communications. Please make sure that you stay informed on this topic and get involved and let your voice be heard as well. Check out this post to learn more and to understand the proposed compensation formula:
  • The H Block licenses that are slated to go on the block on January 22, 2014 have nothing to do with the MI marketplace. Don’t get confused or misled. As a side note, Dish Networks is poised to win this auction. Looks like their longterm game plan is to get into the cellular network game. Read more here:
  • Which leads us to ask the big question and to look at what this is really all about. 1) The spectrum auction will generate roughly $25 billion for the cash-hungry treasury. And 2) “Smartphones use 35 times more spectrum than traditional cell phones and tablets use 121 times as much” according to Shure’s notes on the subject mater. Multiply that out by the current and future projections of smartphone ownership and you can understand the bind that the FCC is in. It looks like your iPhone just ate your microphone. 

THE GOOD NEWS

OK. So it’s not exactly good news or even a silver lining but I did want you to know that the audio industry isn’t just rolling over. 

  •  Trade organizations such as the National Association of Broadcasters and the NFL are against the auction and while they may not have the economic muscle to affect change, they are definitely getting the word out in the press. Take a look at an article published in the Times last year about Broadway performances. And here’s a great story about a combination of mega-churches and sports teams challenging the FCC as featured on NPR. 
  • Lastly, while the auction had been slated for sometime in 2014, on 12/6/2014 Tom Wheeler — the new FCC Chairman and the 3rd since the auction was actually announced — postponed proceedings until 2015. This doesn’t seem to be a case of kicking the can down the road for someone else to deal with but it does hint to internal as well as external complications.  Read Chairman Wheeler’s speech here.

THE UPSIDE

Stay informed. Keep asking questions. And most importantly, take action. Let your thoughts be known. Contact your wireless suppliers and ask them how you can get involved. But understand that this is not simply a good versus evil scenario. The same tools that make life on the road so much easier and so much nicer — your smartphone and tablet — are the exact tools that are eating up the spectrum. Think about how nice it is staying connected to your loved ones before you complain and groan about the eventual switchover. Again. 

The In-Ear Guy

If you have touring questions about sound or wireless, we can help. Email me, The In-Ear Guy, at mdias@ultimateears.com

Our respect to Gene Clair: a Pioneer in Live Sound Reinforcement

It is with heavy sadness that we pay tribute to Gene Clair, one of the most respected and admired pioneers of our industry. But instead of talking about his passing, let us celebrate the innovations that Clair Brothers made to music lovers throughout the world.

Gene and his brother Roy got their first big break when providing sound for Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons as they were passing through town. There was such a noticeable difference of clarity and sonic presence that the band asked them to join the tour (as long as they brought their gear with them — what band wouldn’t want their own sound system, especially those old Altec Lansing Voice of the Theater A7-500 loudspeakers.)

Eventually, the brothers needed more loudness so they inserted two loudspeakers in the same-sized box and then powered it all with the first 300 watts per channel Crown DC300 direct-coupled amplifier. The added boost in sound as well as being in the right place at the right time, landed the brothers their first large concert with Cream for a house of 18,000 in Philly . And from there, bigger shows kept rolling in. In fact, Clair Brothers started getting added to riders. 

Starting in 1968, the company began to really innovate and develop their own products. But it was the launch of the S4 in 1974 that really changed things. Because besides for the speaker system itself, it was coupled with hanging from a grid which allowed the sound to be aimed at a specific location.

But what matters most to an in-ear company like UE was the development of the slanted monitor. Yes, Bill Hanley was the first person to put monitors on stage but Clair was the first to build a specific box for floor monitors that slanted up. Blood Sweat & Tears was the first band to use it and it caught on like wildfire. 

Without that design becoming the de facto industry standard, who knows what would have happened with in-ears. Just as floor monitors were a response to what had come before, in-ears were a response to slanted floor monitors. It’s all connected and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to Gene Clair. 

This article is dedicated both to Gene’s family and to his extended family of engineers who have worked for him throughout the years. All of us at Ultimate Ears have been fortunate to work with and make friends with so many fantastic Clair employees over the years that it’s hard to think about what the touring industry would be like without them. 

Learn more about the history of Clair Brothers:

Learn more about Gene Clair:

Visit Clair to see their roster of clients and engineers:

The In-Ear Guy

If you have touring questions about sound or wireless, we can help. Email me, The In-Ear Guy, at mdias@ultimateears.com

Somethings off. I’m hearing a buzzing in both sides of my in-ear monitors. Any clue as to why?

Something is off. But based on what you’re saying, I don’t suspect that it’s the monitors themselves. You see, since the sound is generated by balanced armatures rather than by dynamic coils like most typical headphones, there are a few tell-tale signs to listen for when diagnosing an issue. Buzzing is not typically associated with a bad driver and both the right and the left monitors having the same issue at the same time is highly unlikely. 

Don’t get me wrong. Balanced armatures can fail. The wand can stick to the magnet but this causes more of a distortion. The frequency range that you’d hear the distortion in would be dependent on which driver failed. And if you ever do experience this problem, it is an easy fix for our lab technicians. You’ll just need to send your set in for a repair. But a failed driver is actually a relatively infrequent occurrence. More often than not, a repair issue usually has to do with excessive ear wax build up but we’ll save that topic for a different post. 

Back to the Buzz:

Anytime you experience an issue in the field, it is important to ask yourself these 3 questions. More often than not, these troubleshooting guides will solve most issues.

1) Is this something that is brand new? Have you heard the sound / issue before? And if not, what other new variables could be contributing to the issue? If you hear a strange buzz during sound check, plug your in-ears into your iPhone and listen for the same issue there. If you don’t hear it on a different source, check your signal chain. Chances are, you’ll find the culprit.

2) Is it cable related? If one of your ears is cutting out or sounds weak or is dead completely, chances are you are experiencing a cable issue rather than a driver issue. And since the cables are user replaceable, this is an easy test and fix.

3) And if neither of these did the trick, pause for a moment and ask yourself one last time if anything new has been introduced to the system. Did you do anything different that ended up in a strange result? Were you playing louder than normal? Was a different frequency boosted that is normally not present? Put your Sherlock Holmes hat on and see if you can find that variable that’s throwing a wrench into the system.

As for the question above, after a bit of real-time trouble shooting, it turned out to be a new charger for the computer. The artist in question was using his laptop for recording and his ears for monitoring and the new charger introduced the buzzing sound. When the computer was unplugged, the sound went away. Sometimes it’s really as simple as that. 

And remember, we’re always an email away to help solve problems and our repairs department is outstanding when there are issues that can’t be fixed in the field. 

Hope that helps,

The In-Ear Guy

If you have touring questions about sound or wireless, we can help. Email me, The In-Ear Guy, at mdias@ultimateears.com

Leading Worship Leaders —An Interview with Rick Muchow
Music plays a huge role for many houses of worship. It brings people together, it is a way of sharing praise and prayer, and it is language that speaks directly to the soul.
For this special holiday edition of the Inside the Industry music feature, we spoke with industry veteran Rick Muchow. Rick was the worship leader at Saddleback Church for nearly 25 years and now he has followed his calling by sharing his expertise as a teacher and coach. His insights are invaluable.
Hi Rick, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us and for sharing your expertise. So you’re a coach for Worship Leaders. What an amazing job! What’s a typical day look like for you? 
I love coaching Worship Leaders.  I have been a worship leader now for over 30 years in small to very large settings and appreciate how important this role is to the local church.  
My coaching is done in various settings: Conferences, Local Church retreats, University Chapel, one on one sessions in person or by phone, articles, and online content.  A typical day for me is spent growing in my personal faith, interacting (listening, resourcing and praying) with ministry leaders, planning services and events, learning in general, rehearsing, listening to music, writing music and worship related articles/posts.
Got it. And who hires you? How’s that happen? Are there churches out there in need and someone says “Man, we’re flat. We’ve got to call Rick?”  
While working with Pastor Rick Warren at Saddleback Church (for nearly 25 years) we trained more than 150,000 Pastors and staff members.  Today much of my work comes from established relationships.  Pastors, Worship Leaders and Event Planners contact me through my website, phone, Twitter and Facebook.  My website has an INVITE tab that makes it easy.  On the site, I offer a coaching subscription that facilitates individual scheduling.  
So do you help with the singing, the musical selections, the overall presentation, or audience engagement? I guess it varies every time.  
That’s right. It does vary.  All of us have strengths and weaknesses.  It is exciting to work with individuals on their specific need.  Coaching is more about the journey than fixing a specific problem.  At it’s core, coaching is about enabling leaders and teams to move from where they are to where they want to be.  With that said, much of my work also involves resourcing and preparing individuals and teams to lead worship on Sunday and to build their teams!  
More Than Music has been my mantra for many years.  Improving the presentation quality is a common request and excellence is a value; however, worship is much more than music and so is leading it.  I love cultivating worship in churches and enabling leaders and teams!!
And what about volunteer participation? Are you able to make a musical community more active and vibrant? 
Volunteer participation is very important to the local church.  We had more than 1000 active and vibrant volunteers in our Worship Arts team at Saddleback when I left in 2012.  In 1987, when I started , Saddleback had 3 musicians and a handful of singers.  Volunteer participation is a biblical idea.  
The bible says “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.” Rom 12:6  Recruiting, Shepherding, Developing and Building Community in a local church takes a lot of hard work and success requires prayer and skill.   Prayer is a choice… He is always listening and is the source of all ministry success. Skill comes as we develop our God given strengths… Practice makes Permanent.  
Now I think that I can say this on record. I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know you over the last year and your passion and excitement are infectious. Simply put, you’re a joy to be around. That enthusiasm has to rub off in your coaching sessions. But for those out there reading this who haven’t heard you speak and who aren’t able to retain your services currently, what advice can you give them right now?  
Thank you.  First, there are many free resources on my website including over 80 articles related to worship leading and the Best Key Finder (helps you find the best key for a song… for your congregation to sing it in)
So let’s talk about Saddleback. You were there from the very beginnings. What was the secret to its growth?   
It was an honor serving with Pastor Rick Warren, the talented staff, our Worship Arts team and the church family.  As you know, Laura and I have 5 children all of which grew up at Saddleback.  The church family was a fantastic influence on our family.  It was incredible watching God work through all of us and seeing so many lives encouraged, healed and growing!
The production value of what you were doing rivals top-touring arena concerts. What kind of gear were you using?  
I am glad you asked that question.  When I first came to the church our gear was my first big project.  We had a portable system— 2  main speakers placed on top of a bleacher in the gym supporting 750 people. My first Sunday at the church, I could see the mixer smoking in the back of the room with a sound man literally “fanning the flames” during the service.  We replaced that mixer immediately with my personal 16 channel portable TOA mixer that had 4 internal power amps! I sought and received the support of our Executive Pastor to begin a process of upgrading our sound system.  (This was before churches used video and way before the internet was available to the public.)  The truth is that the church had grown to 1500 people with only 2 PA speakers!!  
What about microphones? Do you have a personal favorite?  
I like the Sennheiser wireless with a Neumann 105 mic.  
And when did you first experience singing with in-ear monitors? 
I started singing with in-ear monitors about 8 years ago and have used Ultimate Ears for 5 years.  
Did that affect what you were doing? Did it change the way you performed?  
Using in-ear monitors dramatically helped my musical performance in at least 3 ways.  First, doing 6 services a weekend can be taxing on any vocalist.  Using in-ears, I stopped trying to sing over the band and dramatically reduced vocal fatigue.  Further, I could really hear myself and anything else I wanted to hear very clearly and accurately.  The audio quality inspired a higher level of performance.  My pitch and tone was noticeably better and more consistent.  Finally, my acoustic guitar playing sounded better.  Instead of pounding on my guitar on every song—not really aware of how it was sounding because I couldn’t hear it resulting in a harsh, thin sound—I began playing lighter and more accurately in the live setting. The overall experience is much more enjoyable.
Can those benefits be applied to any size ministry or do worship leaders need to wait to use in-ear until they reach a certain size? 
Good tools will help you sound your best.  What is most important in ministry is authenticity. Not gear.  It’s easy to amplify but there is no gear that can hide an insincere heart or lack of preparation.  However, excellence is a biblical idea.  We should do our best at all times.  No matter what size of church you serve at, you will benefit from quality tools like Ultimate In-Ears.  
But isn’t it hard to use in-ears with volunteer musicians? 
Volunteers love in-ear monitors.  What is hard for people is change. When introducing the idea of in-ears encourage dialogue.  People tend to fear the unknown.  There is an old saying that people are down on what they are not up on.  Once people hear the difference and understand the benefits of quality in-ears they will love them.
And what about the sound engineers? Do you have any advice for the good people behind the boards in all the congregations out there? 
My advice to sound guys is to trust God… a lot.  Sound engineers: You are just as much a part of the ministry as the people on stage. Ministry can be difficult for many reasons.  Don’t give up.  Keep learning about your craft and how to serve graciously.  Love God with all your heart and love your musicians and singers, too!  ”Be devoted to prayer, keeping alert in it, with an attitude of thanksgiving!” Col 4:2
The fact is that many Sound engineers are mistreated and undervalued.  So was Jesus.  Don’t give up! Trust God.
Last question, I promise. with the end of the year approaching and the holidays just around the corner, are there any special Christmas wishes that you’d like to share?
I hope that your Christmas is centered around loving and giving!  ”For God so loved the world that He gave…”  John 3:16
Merry Christmas!
As the Worship Pastor at Saddleback Church, serving alongside Pastor Rick Warren for nearly 25 years, Rick Muchow has led worship for 20,000 attendees weekly, and has coached over 150,000 pastors and church leaders from 60 denominations from over 100 countries.Rick is the author of The Worship Answer Book and has recorded 13 CD’s.
Learn more about Rick Muchow and his coaching services:
Or feel free to reach out and ask Rick a question about using in-ears in your ministry. 

UE University is committed to showcasing monthly interviews with prominent audio technicians and music industry insiders. Read these ongoing articles and learn tips and tricks from the pros. If there is an engineer that you want to read about, let us know. Drop us a line: mdias@ultimateears.com

Leading Worship Leaders —An Interview with Rick Muchow

Music plays a huge role for many houses of worship. It brings people together, it is a way of sharing praise and prayer, and it is language that speaks directly to the soul.

For this special holiday edition of the Inside the Industry music feature, we spoke with industry veteran Rick Muchow. Rick was the worship leader at Saddleback Church for nearly 25 years and now he has followed his calling by sharing his expertise as a teacher and coach. His insights are invaluable.


Hi Rick, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us and for sharing your expertise. So you’re a coach for Worship Leaders. What an amazing job! What’s a typical day look like for you?

I love coaching Worship Leaders.  I have been a worship leader now for over 30 years in small to very large settings and appreciate how important this role is to the local church.  

My coaching is done in various settings: Conferences, Local Church retreats, University Chapel, one on one sessions in person or by phone, articles, and online content.  A typical day for me is spent growing in my personal faith, interacting (listening, resourcing and praying) with ministry leaders, planning services and events, learning in general, rehearsing, listening to music, writing music and worship related articles/posts.

Got it. And who hires you? How’s that happen? Are there churches out there in need and someone says “Man, we’re flat. We’ve got to call Rick?”  

While working with Pastor Rick Warren at Saddleback Church (for nearly 25 years) we trained more than 150,000 Pastors and staff members.  Today much of my work comes from established relationships.  Pastors, Worship Leaders and Event Planners contact me through my website, phone, Twitter and Facebook.  My website has an INVITE tab that makes it easy.  On the site, I offer a coaching subscription that facilitates individual scheduling.  

So do you help with the singing, the musical selections, the overall presentation, or audience engagement? I guess it varies every time.  

That’s right. It does vary.  All of us have strengths and weaknesses.  It is exciting to work with individuals on their specific need.  Coaching is more about the journey than fixing a specific problem.  At it’s core, coaching is about enabling leaders and teams to move from where they are to where they want to be.  With that said, much of my work also involves resourcing and preparing individuals and teams to lead worship on Sunday and to build their teams!  

More Than Music has been my mantra for many years.  Improving the presentation quality is a common request and excellence is a value; however, worship is much more than music and so is leading it.  I love cultivating worship in churches and enabling leaders and teams!!

And what about volunteer participation? Are you able to make a musical community more active and vibrant?

Volunteer participation is very important to the local church.  We had more than 1000 active and vibrant volunteers in our Worship Arts team at Saddleback when I left in 2012.  In 1987, when I started , Saddleback had 3 musicians and a handful of singers.  Volunteer participation is a biblical idea.  

The bible says “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.” Rom 12:6  Recruiting, Shepherding, Developing and Building Community in a local church takes a lot of hard work and success requires prayer and skill.   Prayer is a choice… He is always listening and is the source of all ministry success. Skill comes as we develop our God given strengths… Practice makes Permanent.  

Now I think that I can say this on record. I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know you over the last year and your passion and excitement are infectious. Simply put, you’re a joy to be around. That enthusiasm has to rub off in your coaching sessions. But for those out there reading this who haven’t heard you speak and who aren’t able to retain your services currently, what advice can you give them right now?  

Thank you.  First, there are many free resources on my website including over 80 articles related to worship leading and the Best Key Finder (helps you find the best key for a song… for your congregation to sing it in)

So let’s talk about Saddleback. You were there from the very beginnings. What was the secret to its growth?   

It was an honor serving with Pastor Rick Warren, the talented staff, our Worship Arts team and the church family.  As you know, Laura and I have 5 children all of which grew up at Saddleback.  The church family was a fantastic influence on our family.  It was incredible watching God work through all of us and seeing so many lives encouraged, healed and growing!

The production value of what you were doing rivals top-touring arena concerts. What kind of gear were you using?  

I am glad you asked that question.  When I first came to the church our gear was my first big project.  We had a portable system— 2  main speakers placed on top of a bleacher in the gym supporting 750 people. My first Sunday at the church, I could see the mixer smoking in the back of the room with a sound man literally “fanning the flames” during the service.  We replaced that mixer immediately with my personal 16 channel portable TOA mixer that had 4 internal power amps! I sought and received the support of our Executive Pastor to begin a process of upgrading our sound system.  (This was before churches used video and way before the internet was available to the public.)  The truth is that the church had grown to 1500 people with only 2 PA speakers!!  

What about microphones? Do you have a personal favorite?  

I like the Sennheiser wireless with a Neumann 105 mic.  

And when did you first experience singing with in-ear monitors?

I started singing with in-ear monitors about 8 years ago and have used Ultimate Ears for 5 years.  

Did that affect what you were doing? Did it change the way you performed?  

Using in-ear monitors dramatically helped my musical performance in at least 3 ways.  First, doing 6 services a weekend can be taxing on any vocalist.  Using in-ears, I stopped trying to sing over the band and dramatically reduced vocal fatigue.  Further, I could really hear myself and anything else I wanted to hear very clearly and accurately.  The audio quality inspired a higher level of performance.  My pitch and tone was noticeably better and more consistent.  Finally, my acoustic guitar playing sounded better.  Instead of pounding on my guitar on every song—not really aware of how it was sounding because I couldn’t hear it resulting in a harsh, thin sound—I began playing lighter and more accurately in the live setting. The overall experience is much more enjoyable.

Can those benefits be applied to any size ministry or do worship leaders need to wait to use in-ear until they reach a certain size?

Good tools will help you sound your best.  What is most important in ministry is authenticity. Not gear.  It’s easy to amplify but there is no gear that can hide an insincere heart or lack of preparation.  However, excellence is a biblical idea.  We should do our best at all times.  No matter what size of church you serve at, you will benefit from quality tools like Ultimate In-Ears.  

But isn’t it hard to use in-ears with volunteer musicians?

Volunteers love in-ear monitors.  What is hard for people is change. When introducing the idea of in-ears encourage dialogue.  People tend to fear the unknown.  There is an old saying that people are down on what they are not up on.  Once people hear the difference and understand the benefits of quality in-ears they will love them.

And what about the sound engineers? Do you have any advice for the good people behind the boards in all the congregations out there?

My advice to sound guys is to trust God… a lot.  Sound engineers: You are just as much a part of the ministry as the people on stage. Ministry can be difficult for many reasons.  Don’t give up.  Keep learning about your craft and how to serve graciously.  Love God with all your heart and love your musicians and singers, too!  ”Be devoted to prayer, keeping alert in it, with an attitude of thanksgiving!” Col 4:2

The fact is that many Sound engineers are mistreated and undervalued.  So was Jesus.  Don’t give up! Trust God.

Last question, I promise. with the end of the year approaching and the holidays just around the corner, are there any special Christmas wishes that you’d like to share?

I hope that your Christmas is centered around loving and giving!  ”For God so loved the world that He gave…”  John 3:16

Merry Christmas!

As the Worship Pastor at Saddleback Church, serving alongside Pastor Rick Warren for nearly 25 years, Rick Muchow has led worship for 20,000 attendees weekly, and has coached over 150,000 pastors and church leaders from 60 denominations from over 100 countries.Rick is the author of The Worship Answer Book and has recorded 13 CD’s.

Learn more about Rick Muchow and his coaching services:

Or feel free to reach out and ask Rick a question about using in-ears in your ministry. 

UE University is committed to showcasing monthly interviews with prominent audio technicians and music industry insiders. Read these ongoing articles and learn tips and tricks from the pros. If there is an engineer that you want to read about, let us know. Drop us a line: mdias@ultimateears.com

How to get more enjoyment out of your in-ear monitors!

Whether you are using your in-ear monitors for stage use, for mixing and mastering, or for simply listening to and enjoying music, I’m about supercharge your user experience. The secret that I’m about to tell you will make your in-ears sound even better. And this is completely independent of whichever make and model you are using. Plain and simple. If you want to enjoy your monitors even more and develop an even greater understanding and respect for the technology, then practice ear training exercises.

The better that you can hear notes and frequencies, the more you will enjoy what your monitors are capable of doing. In the last 3 installments of this series, we’ve talked about using a tone generator to test your monitors. We discussed overtones and harmonics of different instruments. And we’ve talked about analyzing a mix for the buildup of sonic energy. Each of those articles was a buildup to this simple fact: ear Training is the single most important function that you can do to test and enjoy in-ear monitors.

And whereas all of the recent articles focused on the “why,” none of them focused on the “how.” I told you to pay attention to tones and I asked you to listen for buildup in between 140 Hz and 6000Hz, but I never told you just how to listen. And that was on purpose because there is no way that I could explain the how better than Christopher Sutton and his London-based music education technology company, Easy Ear Training.

Start wherever you feel most comfortable. I like to think I know a thing or 2 about audio but I started right from the beginning and have been filling in holes in my knowledge base ever since. You can use the Easy Ear Training techniques via iOS apps or through interactive eBooks.

Once you feel pretty comfortable with recognizing relative pitches and noticing intervals, you may want to branch out to frequency ear training exercises. 

And don’t forget to check out their Resources and FAQ sections. There’s more info here than anyone can readily digest. So come back often and feel free to reach out to anyone over at the Easy Ear Training team. 

Before I sign off for the week, I’d just like to tip my hat to Christopher and his crew for putting all of this together for all of us to enjoy and learn from. I wish I had a resource like this 15 years ago when I first started out. 

Many thanks,

The In-Ear Guy

If you have touring questions about sound or wireless, we can help. Email me, The In-Ear Guy, at mdias@ultimateears.com

Putting it all together: How to find the perfect sound signature for you.

We’ve been talking about various ways to test in-ear monitors. We started off by discussing the benefits of using pure tones and then we moved on to analyzing overtones and harmonics of single instruments. Today, we’re going to put it all together and talk about the mix. In doing so, we’re also going to talk about the history of in-ear monitors and how their use on stage differs from their use for audiophiles. 

Audiophiles want to hear a final track as it was mixed and mastered. Audiophiles want to hear every nuance of the recording. But this is the realm of studio work and in-ear monitors were initially invented/ developed for stage use. In-ears were made to monitor live performances and live music is a totally different animal than the studio. Think about that for a second. The needs of a performing musician trying to hear themselves while onstage are totally different than an audiophile wanting to hear the best representation of a studio recording. 

The mix:

On stage, a musician rarely wants to hear a full mix. They often just want to hear themselves and how their parts fit into the whole. That’s what in-ears are really about—giving artists the ability to hear themselves over the stage noise. Singers want to hear a vocal mix. Drummers want a rhythm mix. Guitarists want to hear the guitars and bass players want the bass. 

When auditioning in-ears, it is critical to keep all this in mind. You have to realize that listening to a monitor mix is very different than listening to a front of house mix — which is what the audience hears. A front of house mix is the sum of all the parts. A monitor mix is just a part. 

But what part?

Exactly! And herein is the key to unlock all in-ear monitor riddles. This is the lens to look through when comparing any and all monitors in the future. As a manufacturer, we have no idea what part of the mix a musician will be listening to. A UE-18 needs to be able to work for a vocalist, a drummer, a bass player, a guitarist, and an engineer. It needs to be able to handle a front of house mix but it also needs to excel  with just vocals. This is why the crossover networks are so important and why I had stressed listening to each individual frequency in the prior articles. Every monitor needs to be able to do everything. Think of it like hiring a baseball player who is amazing in every position. No matter what, you’re covered. 

Now, add to this equation that sound is subjective and based on preference. And remember, we’re still talking about live performances. It’s as simple as realizing that some drummers want a huge bottom-end while others prefer to focus on their cymbal work. Remember that next time you are comparing various models and when you’re searching for the sound signature that is right for you. Don’t settle for a sound signature that doesn’t do everything you want it to do. Move on and audition another model. That’s the beauty of choice. 

Back to the mix:

OK. So wrapping it all up. You know that sound is subjective. You know that different models cater to different preferences. And you know that musicians listen to different mixes than the audience and the studio recordings. 

These facts are liberating. They give you the freedom to never settle and they encourage you to find that perfect sound that just simply fits.

Before I leave you to go and seek out your sound signature, there is one last technical bit to pay attention to. If you look at the Great Frequency Overlap Chart provided once again by The Independant Recording Network, you’ll notice that nearly all of the instruments share the same fundamental frequencies. Most of the sonic energy happens between 140 Hz and 6000 Hz. you’ll remember that this is roughly the same range where our ears naturally amplify sound. 

Image courtesy of the Independent Recording Network

The combination of energy and amplification leads to bad things sonically. When there’s just too much going on, we interpret it with terms like “harshness” and “tinniness” and “mud.” This buildup is normally addressed by competent engineers but you add an extra layer of variables when you factor in the sonic color of the in-ear. If you are listening to a monitor with extra boosts in these frequencies, you may be prone to hearing more issues in the range.

Keep your ears open now that you know what to listen for. Speaking of which, next week we’ll talk about ear training exercises so you can get even more out of your listening experiences.

Until then, 

The In-Ear Guy

If you have touring questions about sound or wireless, we can help. Email me, The In-Ear Guy, at mdias@ultimateears.com

Do you recommend any specific music for testing and comparing various in-ear monitors?

Last week we talked about comparing in-ear models based on isolating individual frequencies through tone generators. That makes sense as a starting point but I doubt you spend the majority of your time listening to pure tones. The important take-home lesson was to familiarize yourself with the relative pitches of each frequency and to hear how various in-ears handle them without any additional frequency interference. 

So now’s a good time to talk about why we used a tone generator rather than simply listening to individual notes on a piano or a guitar. The computer generated sine wave that creates the tone is pure. There are no harmonics. There is no color. No amplitude or time-profile of the resonance frequencies. Basically, there’s nothing musical about it at all. And that’s precisely the point.  No timbre.

All instruments play the same basic notes but a note from an instrument is never just simply a note. It’s the reflection and personality of the instrument. A guitar string may vibrate at the same frequency as a violin string but the overtones are different. The sound will amplify differently in the larger guitar body or maybe it will reflect differently off of the tone wood in the violin. Regardless of the why (although this is one of the most fascinating aspects of sound) what’s important to keep in mind is that while A440 has the same frequency across all instruments that play it, the total sound profile is different for every instrument. So to fully enjoy the nuances of your favorite piano piece, you need to be 100% confident that your monitors can seamlessly handle multiple competing frequencies at once. 

Now’s a good time for another listening test. Pick out a complex piece of music but one that only features 1 instrument. I’d recommend any classical piano prelude or étude. If you’re not so familiar with the genre, I’d recommend anything by Chopin or Debussy. You want a piece with space and breadth between the notes. Audition your monitors with this piece and pay close attention to everything that you learned while listening to the pure tones. What do you notice? How does the sound decay? How does the space sound? How do the individual notes and the chords feel? Now listen to the same piece with a different pair of headphones / in-ears? What differences did you hear? OK. Now listen to the same piece but with a different bitrate or codec. Can you hear the file limitations? 

Even if you never listen to piano pieces, this exercise will teach you amazing things about your in-ear monitors or headphones. Since the piano is one of the only instruments that covers nearly the entire audible spectrum, you’ll be listening to hear where your monitors shine or where they may have holes. How did they perform in the lowest registers? And the highest? Was your listening experience musical or analytical. And since you’ll be focusing on just one instrument, you won’t get distracted by the mix. Which is what we’ll cover next week.

This is part 2 in a 4 part series dedicated to objectively testing and comparing monitors.

Until next week,

The In-Ear Guy

If you have touring questions about sound or wireless, we can help. Email me, The In-Ear Guy, at mdias@ultimateears.com

What’s the best way to test and compare in-ear monitors?

Great question! In order to properly answer it, let’s start from the very top and then drill down. Before we can talk about how to critically judge an earpiece (or any speaker for that matter) we need to really understand sound dynamics.

We know that sound is a mechanical wave that is an oscillation of pressure traveling through a medium. We know that the corresponding wavelengths vary in size — ranging from around 56 feet to less than .05 feet.  And we know that all sound waves travel at a constant speed of roughly 1125.29 feet per second. When you combine all these facts, the idea of frequency & pitch becomes less abstract. 

So let’s look at a concrete example. If I hit the middle A key on a piano, the mechanical energy of my finger hitting the ivory is transferred to a mallet. That mallet then hits a string and that string creates a vibration. The length and thickness of that particular string lends itself to generating waves that are 2.56 feet long (meaning that that’s the distance between the peak to trough of the oscillations.) So those waves moves through the air at about 1125.29 feet a second and they interact with my eardrum approximately 439.56 times in one second. That’s the frequency. Middle A vibrates about 440 times a second. Get it — 1125.29/2.56 = 439.56. The same holds true for everything. If I hit a big deep drum and make a sound wave that is 56.26 feet long, that becomes 20 Hz (1125.29/56.26 = 20.001) meaning that those waves only hit my eardrum 20 times per second. The more times that a wave interacts with your eardrum per second, the higher you perceive it to be in pitch. 

Humans can hear frequencies that fall between 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. Although we do tend to hear certain frequencies more accurately while we perceive other frequencies to be louder or softer — even when all other factors are held constant.  We are least sensitive to perceiving the sub bass frequencies between 20-60 Hz. We can hear between 60-200 Hz fairly accurately and our ears are the most accurate between 300-2000 Hz with our truest perceptions being right around 1000 Hz. From there, our ears get very sensitive and actually amplify perceived volume levels from around 2000 - 6000 Hz. This is great for sensing direction and vocal recognition but it can be harsh in musical terms if dealing with a bad mix. And finally, sensitivity dips back down in the higher frequencies from 6000-20,000 Hz although there is a pronounced boost in the 12,000-13,000 Hz range. 

This hearing sensitivity by frequency chart is included by the courtesy of the Independent Recording Network. Click through for more detail.

So what’s all of this have to do with evaluating in-ears? Everything. Since music is the countless combinations of instruments and tones and pitches and frequencies and timbres and overtones and harmonics — all interacting with your eardrum at various sensitivity levels combined with how you perceive sound, it is impossible to tease out all the factors. You have to decouple the information and just listen to pure tone frequencies if you really want to get under the hood and hear how your piece performs. It’s the only way to know what it can really handle. 

Download these tone generating apps now and start isolating individual frequencies. How does your favorite pair of headphones measure up? How did the manufacturer address the frequencies that you now know you’re less likely to hear? Are they boosted? Are they even present? And what about the high-mids where you’re naturally sensitive. Are the tones harsh or are they clear? 

I personally use Tone Explorer for iOS. It’s $1.99 and worth every penny. 

Tone Generator is free for iOS.

And here is a free web-based Tone Generator 

More information on hearing sensitivity can be found here.

And here is a great chart on wavelengths for all frequencies. 

Now that you’ve been able to isolate and evaluate individual pitches / frequencies, listen to a full song and apply what you heard and learned. Can you hear if anything is missing or not fully balanced?

Please note that this is part 1 in a 4 part series dedicated to objectively testing and comparing monitors.

Until next week,

The In-Ear Guy

If you have touring questions about sound or wireless, we can help. Email me, The In-Ear Guy, at mdias@ultimateears.com

Photo by Rosaura Sandoval
The Vocal Coach for The Voice
For this month’s Inside the Industry music feature, we were able to talk with Trelawny Rose, Vocal Coach on the hit TV series The Voice. We’re honored and delighted to have such an all access pass to one of prime time’s biggest shows and after you read this exclusive feature, our bet is that your vote will be for Trelawny herself!
Hi Trelawny, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us. So what’s a typical day look like for you during the filming of The Voice?
Working on The Voice is a thrilling experience. One thing I love about the show is how different each round is. The Blind Auditions, Battle Rounds, Knockouts, Live Playoffs and then the Live Shows each have their own distinct vibe and that keeps it interesting and fun to watch. For Blinds, Battles and Knockouts, we tape ahead of time. A day of filming is usually a very long day and the coaches see many, many singers in a row. The contestants are all waiting backstage for their turn to perform. It’s a very large stage and I am typically running around backstage making sure all the contestants are in good spirits, feeling confident and ready to give the performance of a lifetime. Sometimes they are nervous or have stage fright and it’s part of my job to help them feel courageous and confident. I also give them a final reminder of everything we worked on in our voice lessons and rehearsals so they are focused on those important moments in the song.
Live Shows are different because there are fewer singers and all the magic happens in only 2 hours of filming — live on National TV no less! By that time, we have all become so close it’s like a family backstage. I can give very detailed notes without saying too much because a kind of shorthand develops between myself and the contestants. In those moments, every second counts and I try and say the perfect words that will make the biggest difference for them in that moment before they take the stage and perform for votes.
 And have you worked for TV before? Do you prefer to work in front of the camera or behind the scenes?
This is my first time working in TV and I love it! I love being in front of the camera. I am very comfortable with that. However, I think there are aspects of my job that work best in private. My private voice lessons with the contestants are very special. Sometimes big breakthroughs happen both vocally and emotionally. I have to admit, sometimes when something absolutely amazing happens in a voice lesson, I almost wish it was captured on camera because it’s so inspiring, but then I wonder if that moment would have happened without privacy and confidentiality. So I guess the answer is that for me, personally, I can work on or off camera. But I’m happy to provide the contestants with a safe and private environment where they can challenge themselves. That work is critical and I am honored to facilitate it.
So let me ask about how you got started. Before you became a vocal coach, when did you first start singing? 
My mother swears that I started singing at 4 months old. She says that I didn’t just make random baby sounds but that I seemed to be trying to express something musically. I remember singing all throughout childhood but I didn’t consider myself a singer. To me, that was normal and I thought everyone did it. When I was 12, I performed in front of an audience at a music camp for the first time and I got a standing ovation. I will never forget that feeling. After that, I was 100% focused on singing. It has always been everything to me.
And when did you decide to really follow your voice as a career? 
There was never another option. I never considered anything else although there was a time when I thought the pressure of making a living in music was too much. I considered giving up. It was in the middle of college and I was traveling in Europe. At the thought of not pursuing music anymore, I burst into tears in the middle of Rome. I guess that was a defining moment. Maybe that’s when I really decided that I was going to stick with music no matter how long it took, no matter how difficult it seemed at times.
So how did you get from that defining moment to becoming a vocal coach? 
I graduated with a degree in vocal performance but I wasn’t sure how the business of vocal coaching worked. I decided I needed to move to LA and get some experience. I met Roger Love, an amazing celebrity vocal coach (he has worked with Glee and John Mayer) and he became a close friend and a mentor. I started working out of his studio in Hollywood and eventually started my own vocal coaching studio in LA and then I moved back to the Bay Area and started a studio there, as well.
 And how did you end up with The Voice? 
After running a studio in the Bay Area for about 5 years, I was ready for the next level. My husband suggested we give LA another try. I was thriving in the Bay Area, surrounded by friends and family and with a full studio. It was a difficult decision to leave all of that but I decided it would be worth it in the end and we moved to LA. I had no clients there, yet. It sounds cliche but we just took a leap of faith. Less than a week after arriving in LA, I got a meeting with The Voice and they hired me to work on Season 3 and I have been there ever since.
That’s an incredibly inspiring story. So let me ask you, what are some of the most important lessons that you try and teach the contestants?
I teach them how to believe in everything that comes out of their mouth. If they are singing something they don’t believe in, the performance will be shaky. It won’t make sense. It won’t connect to the audience.
I also teach them to sing with correct vocal technique so they can preserve their voice and have a long career ahead of them. Most importantly, I remind them that they are artists. Their job isn’t to be perfect, it is to make people feel something, and to inspire them. If they do that, they’ve done their job, and will probably get votes as a bonus!
And what do you think about singing with your new UE-4’s. Do you notice less vocal fatigue? 
The Voice is very aware of the contestants’ vocal health. The contestants are provided with a lot of tools to keep their voice healthy during the live shows when their schedule becomes demanding and they are singing a new set of songs each week. The Ultimate Ears UE-4’s are an important part of our strategy to reduce both vocal fatigue and preserve the health of the ears. I notice that when the contestants use the in-ear monitors, they don’t over-sing because they can hear themselves so clearly in their UE-4 ear pieces.
And what about mic control? Have you or the contestants noticed anything about mic placement or the detailed control of your singing? 
Yes, when you can hear everything you are doing with more clarity, you can be more precise about singing with pitch accuracy, nuance of expression and refinement of dynamic level.
What do you typically listen for in your personal mix? 
It’s important to be able to hear everything clearly to give your best performance. I personally like to hear myself with a lot of presence so that I can feel confident about what I am singing. To make sure I am on pitch, I like to hear piano or guitar nice and clear. Depending on what I am singing, sometimes I want to hear a lot of bass and drums to feel the groove and the pocket.
OK. Last question. Who are 3 of your favorite singers. 
Oh, I can’t name just 3! I have so many favorite singers! Aretha Franklin, Joni Mitchell, Ella Fitzgerald, India Arie, Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, Ledisi, Eva Cassidy, Yolanda Adams, Patty Griffin, Bonnie Raitt, Bobby McFerrin, Stevie Wonder, Usher. I guess I can leave it at that… but there are so many beautiful singers in the world, it’s hard to just name a few!
And with that, thank you so much and we’ll be seeing you on the show.
Thank you for tuning in to The Voice every Monday and Tuesday on NBC! We are looking forward to a fantastic new season!

Los Angeles based vocalist and recording artist, Trelawny Rose, is the Vocal Coach for NBC’s smash hit The Voice. Trelawny is known for her strong ability to help Artists overcome technical and emotional barriers to create breakthrough vocal performances. 
UE University is committed to showcasing monthly interviews with prominent audio technicians and music industry insiders. Read these ongoing articles and learn tips and tricks from the pros. If there is an engineer that you want to read about, let us know. Drop us a line: mdias@ultimateears.com
The photo for this article was taken by Rosaura Sandoval.

Photo by Rosaura Sandoval

The Vocal Coach for The Voice

For this month’s Inside the Industry music feature, we were able to talk with Trelawny Rose, Vocal Coach on the hit TV series The Voice. We’re honored and delighted to have such an all access pass to one of prime time’s biggest shows and after you read this exclusive feature, our bet is that your vote will be for Trelawny herself!


Hi Trelawny, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us. So what’s a typical day look like for you during the filming of The Voice?

Working on The Voice is a thrilling experience. One thing I love about the show is how different each round is. The Blind Auditions, Battle Rounds, Knockouts, Live Playoffs and then the Live Shows each have their own distinct vibe and that keeps it interesting and fun to watch. For Blinds, Battles and Knockouts, we tape ahead of time. A day of filming is usually a very long day and the coaches see many, many singers in a row. The contestants are all waiting backstage for their turn to perform. It’s a very large stage and I am typically running around backstage making sure all the contestants are in good spirits, feeling confident and ready to give the performance of a lifetime. Sometimes they are nervous or have stage fright and it’s part of my job to help them feel courageous and confident. I also give them a final reminder of everything we worked on in our voice lessons and rehearsals so they are focused on those important moments in the song.

Live Shows are different because there are fewer singers and all the magic happens in only 2 hours of filming — live on National TV no less! By that time, we have all become so close it’s like a family backstage. I can give very detailed notes without saying too much because a kind of shorthand develops between myself and the contestants. In those moments, every second counts and I try and say the perfect words that will make the biggest difference for them in that moment before they take the stage and perform for votes.

And have you worked for TV before? Do you prefer to work in front of the camera or behind the scenes?

This is my first time working in TV and I love it! I love being in front of the camera. I am very comfortable with that. However, I think there are aspects of my job that work best in private. My private voice lessons with the contestants are very special. Sometimes big breakthroughs happen both vocally and emotionally. I have to admit, sometimes when something absolutely amazing happens in a voice lesson, I almost wish it was captured on camera because it’s so inspiring, but then I wonder if that moment would have happened without privacy and confidentiality. So I guess the answer is that for me, personally, I can work on or off camera. But I’m happy to provide the contestants with a safe and private environment where they can challenge themselves. That work is critical and I am honored to facilitate it.

So let me ask about how you got started. Before you became a vocal coach, when did you first start singing?

My mother swears that I started singing at 4 months old. She says that I didn’t just make random baby sounds but that I seemed to be trying to express something musically. I remember singing all throughout childhood but I didn’t consider myself a singer. To me, that was normal and I thought everyone did it. When I was 12, I performed in front of an audience at a music camp for the first time and I got a standing ovation. I will never forget that feeling. After that, I was 100% focused on singing. It has always been everything to me.

And when did you decide to really follow your voice as a career?

There was never another option. I never considered anything else although there was a time when I thought the pressure of making a living in music was too much. I considered giving up. It was in the middle of college and I was traveling in Europe. At the thought of not pursuing music anymore, I burst into tears in the middle of Rome. I guess that was a defining moment. Maybe that’s when I really decided that I was going to stick with music no matter how long it took, no matter how difficult it seemed at times.

So how did you get from that defining moment to becoming a vocal coach?

I graduated with a degree in vocal performance but I wasn’t sure how the business of vocal coaching worked. I decided I needed to move to LA and get some experience. I met Roger Love, an amazing celebrity vocal coach (he has worked with Glee and John Mayer) and he became a close friend and a mentor. I started working out of his studio in Hollywood and eventually started my own vocal coaching studio in LA and then I moved back to the Bay Area and started a studio there, as well.

And how did you end up with The Voice?

After running a studio in the Bay Area for about 5 years, I was ready for the next level. My husband suggested we give LA another try. I was thriving in the Bay Area, surrounded by friends and family and with a full studio. It was a difficult decision to leave all of that but I decided it would be worth it in the end and we moved to LA. I had no clients there, yet. It sounds cliche but we just took a leap of faith. Less than a week after arriving in LA, I got a meeting with The Voice and they hired me to work on Season 3 and I have been there ever since.

That’s an incredibly inspiring story. So let me ask you, what are some of the most important lessons that you try and teach the contestants?

I teach them how to believe in everything that comes out of their mouth. If they are singing something they don’t believe in, the performance will be shaky. It won’t make sense. It won’t connect to the audience.

I also teach them to sing with correct vocal technique so they can preserve their voice and have a long career ahead of them. Most importantly, I remind them that they are artists. Their job isn’t to be perfect, it is to make people feel something, and to inspire them. If they do that, they’ve done their job, and will probably get votes as a bonus!

And what do you think about singing with your new UE-4’s. Do you notice less vocal fatigue?

The Voice is very aware of the contestants’ vocal health. The contestants are provided with a lot of tools to keep their voice healthy during the live shows when their schedule becomes demanding and they are singing a new set of songs each week. The Ultimate Ears UE-4’s are an important part of our strategy to reduce both vocal fatigue and preserve the health of the ears. I notice that when the contestants use the in-ear monitors, they don’t over-sing because they can hear themselves so clearly in their UE-4 ear pieces.

And what about mic control? Have you or the contestants noticed anything about mic placement or the detailed control of your singing?

Yes, when you can hear everything you are doing with more clarity, you can be more precise about singing with pitch accuracy, nuance of expression and refinement of dynamic level.

What do you typically listen for in your personal mix?

It’s important to be able to hear everything clearly to give your best performance. I personally like to hear myself with a lot of presence so that I can feel confident about what I am singing. To make sure I am on pitch, I like to hear piano or guitar nice and clear. Depending on what I am singing, sometimes I want to hear a lot of bass and drums to feel the groove and the pocket.

OK. Last question. Who are 3 of your favorite singers.

Oh, I can’t name just 3! I have so many favorite singers! Aretha Franklin, Joni Mitchell, Ella Fitzgerald, India Arie, Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, Ledisi, Eva Cassidy, Yolanda Adams, Patty Griffin, Bonnie Raitt, Bobby McFerrin, Stevie Wonder, Usher. I guess I can leave it at that… but there are so many beautiful singers in the world, it’s hard to just name a few!

And with that, thank you so much and we’ll be seeing you on the show.

Thank you for tuning in to The Voice every Monday and Tuesday on NBC! We are looking forward to a fantastic new season!

Los Angeles based vocalist and recording artist, Trelawny Rose, is the Vocal Coach for NBC’s smash hit The Voice. Trelawny is known for her strong ability to help Artists overcome technical and emotional barriers to create breakthrough vocal performances. 

UE University is committed to showcasing monthly interviews with prominent audio technicians and music industry insiders. Read these ongoing articles and learn tips and tricks from the pros. If there is an engineer that you want to read about, let us know. Drop us a line: mdias@ultimateears.com

The photo for this article was taken by Rosaura Sandoval.

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